One of the law variations under trial by World Rugby presently is the 'Captains Challenge'. The new law allows a teams captain to pause play and request the referee to review an incident that the team alleges was missed. If the captain is correct and a penalty or worse arises from the review, they retain their challenge, if the review is clear, the challenge is lost and may not be used again for the remainder of the game.
The law is being testes in Super Rugby Aotearoa, Super Rugby AU, as well as in the Pro14's Rainbow Nations Cup. In Saturday's final between the Crusaders and the Chiefs, we saw lock and captain Scott Barrett waste his review on an incident involving himself. In the Stormers clash with the Blue Bulls, prop and captain Steven Kitshoff used the review successfully a handful of times to gain penalties for his side.
The issue surrounding the law variation is that it causes many stoppages throughout the fixture. Players are constantly looking to review minor incidents and it frustrates the flow of the game. Many fans have spoken out at the frustration of watching the TMO being called in to adjudicate matters too frequently.
With World Rugby pushing for a faster, more free flowing game, the variation is counter productive. Not only does it see a slower game, but it is being utilized by teams to actively eliminate players from the other side. It is no coincident that the number of cards being handed out are excessively high and the extra scrutiny being provided is over doing it.
Steven Kitshoff and Duane Vermeulen both challenged tackles and two of the three referrals resulted in yellow cards. Kitshoff had a 7 of 8 success rate with his referrals. Bulls head coach Jake white has spoken out on the law variation and expressed his dissatisfaction after rightly pointing out that most marginal calls, with extra scrutiny can look worse than it is in slow motion.
"The captains call is frustrating. It is not only frustrating for us but for the players and the supporters. It is frustrating for people watching at home as well. If you freeze frame anything you can probably find a reason to penalise."
Whilst World Rugby proclaim the laws promote player welfare and a focus on injury prevention, it is hard to see how the means justify the ends here. It protracts from the spectacle and really isn't something we'd like to see implemented going forward.
What are your thoughts on the topic?